It is easy to collectively put our heads in the sand assuming that something as horrible as human trafficking could not possibly happen in our beautiful, family friendly state of Colorado. No one wants to think about innocent humans being abducted or tricked into a life of modern-day slavery. The reality is that sex trafficking is an ever-increasing problem in American society and Colorado is no exception.
Human trafficking as defined by the Department of Homeland Security is “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Sadly, this problem is no respecter of gender or age, although adolescents and children are the age groups most often targeted.
In 2010 alone, law enforcement investigated as many as 150 cases in the Denver area related to sex trafficking. This is an alarming number of people exploited just within one concentrated area of Colorado. When considering the sheer size of the state it is appalling to consider the impact on the state as a whole.
Colorado is essentially the perfect place to commit such as crime with its large immigrant population who are more vulnerable to exploitation. Additionally, the convenient location and availability of I-70 and I-25 make transportation out of the state both quick and efficient. The state is also conveniently equipped with an international airport making it dangerously simple to move victims across state and country lines.
Specific populations are at heightened risk for trafficking as they are in disadvantaged situations. Homeless adolescents and young adults are particularly at risk. In 2007, Colorado statistics showed that as many as 1500 young people aged 12-24 were homeless.
Sadly, disadvantaged youth and children are not the only targets. With the ever-increasing use of social media, children and young adults are being lured into meeting people who are involved in the sex trade. Roadside signs, presenting undisclosed employer and job information for above average pay is also a tactic used to lure young adults in. These signs include a phone number which will lead to a meeting and subsequent abduction for vulnerable youth.
Awareness of this issue is still in a fledgling stage. While it is being recommended that law enforcement receive training specific to this issue, nothing has yet been made mandatory by the state. Simple training related to awareness of red flags will be crucial in helping the public, as well as those in criminal law enforcement protect our state’s most vulnerable populations.